Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let Thy glory be over all the earth! Psalm 57:5
A great deal of our liturgical services are taken from the Psalms. That is because the Psalms cry to God with every emotion and our services reflect all of our various emotions. Many of the Psalm verses are offered as silent prayers by the priest. For instance, there is a prayer offered at each verse when a priest is vesting. And all of these prayers come from the Psalms.
Psalm 57:5 is prayed by the priest right after Holy Communion. After he says “Save, O God, Your people and bless Your inheritance,” he turns to the altar and sets the chalice on the altar table. The people respond by singing the hymn “We have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit. We have found the true faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity, for the Trinity has saved us.” While this hymn is being sung, the priest censes the Holy Gifts and offers these words from Psalm 57:5 three times. Why?
Now that we have received Holy Communion, there is work for us, the faithful, to do. Which is to exalt the name of God everyone on earth. If God is to be exalted above the heavens, then He certainly should be exalted in all the earth. Our receiving Holy Communion, therefore, is not an end in itself. It is not an event that stands alone. It most certainly is not a legalistic checking of a box. Rather, Holy Communion, among so many other reasons, is something that should propel us forward enthusiastically to exalt and glorify God.
Most of us have had the experience of going to a restaurant where we’ve experienced a great meal. And then we’ve shared this experience with others, encouraging them to go to this restaurant and get this same meal. That’s how I’ve learned about most of the restaurants I patronize. I heard about them from other people. There is one restaurant in particular that serves amazing lasagna. While I like lasagna, it is not something that I typically order at a restaurant. Someone said to me, “When you go to _____ restaurant, you seriously have to try the lasagna. It is really out of this world good!” The next time I went, I took their advice, and they were right, it was out of this world good.
Receiving Communion is something that should bring us closer to God. It should be something that gets us excited for God. It’s almost sacrilege to compare the experience of Holy Communion to the restaurant experience I just shared, but it should have the same affect. We should be inspired to bring others to Christ because sharing in Him is the top thing we can do as human beings.
In this time of pandemic, “glory” and “exaltation” are probably the furthest things from our minds. It’s more like “blah”. It’s hard to get excited for Christ when going to church requires us to wear a mask and social distance, and in some places in our country, churches aren’t even open. For something to be exalted, however, it does not need to be grand. God isn’t only exalted on the altar table or in the church. God doesn’t need a magnificent choir to be exalted. We don’t need a huge church in order to experience God’s glory.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is I Kings 19:11-12, where Elijah encounters God. It reads: “And behold the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind, an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.” The Lord spoke to Elijah from a still, small voice, not from a mighty wind, a powerful earthquake or a raging fire.
It is important for us to experience God’s glory in worship, and in Holy Communion. In the absence of them (because it is not a day on which we are worshipping, or because we are not allowed to worship, or because worship has been scaled back), God’s powerful presence can still be found in stillness and silence. God’s glory can be revealed through a quiet prayer, a reflective sitting with Scripture, a gazing into the sky, a thoughtful gesture, any expression of love and in so many other ways. God’s glory, whether found in a majestic service or a quiet prayer, is something we should be inspired to share with others, just as we take inspiration from it ourselves.
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in Thee my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of Thy wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry to God Most High, to God who fulfills His purpose for me. He will send form heaven and save me, He will put to shame those who trample upon me. God will send forth His steadfast love and His faithfulness! I lie in the midst of lions that greedily devour the sons of men; their teeth are spears and arrows, their tongues sharp swords. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let Thy glory be over all the earth! They set a net for my steps; my soul was bowed down. They dig a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves. My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! Awake, my soul! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to Thee among the nations. For Thy steadfast love is great to the heavens, Thy faithfulness to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let Thy glory be over all the earth! Psalm 57
Glorify God through your actions today! Spend a few moments in stillness and silence, and listen for His quiet voice!
The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! There you may find a database for past prayer team messages as well as books by Fr. Stavros and other information about his work and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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